Mae Ngai will deliver the 2019-2020 Hugh Hawkins Lecture, "'Mother of Exiles': Refugees in American History and Myth." Ngai is the Lung Family Professor of Asian American Studies and a professor of history at Columbia University. She is the author of the award-winning book Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America.
Emma Lazarus called America the “mother of exiles” in her poem “The New Colossus,” which graces the Statue of Liberty. This lecture will examine the enduring idea of America as a land of hope and refuge for the persecuted and oppressed. It goes beyond the familiar narratives of the Puritan settlers and the Statue of Liberty to think about how the idea of asylum has historically justified and obscured nation-building and racial agendas. It will compare the politics surrounding Cold War refugees from Europe, Cuba and Asia, and consider the contemporary recasting of Central American asylum seekers as undocumented migrants.
Brett Story is a nonfiction filmmaker and geographer whose work focuses on capitalism, ideology and the production of space. She is the director of the recent feature documentaries The Hottest August (2019) and The Prison in Twelve Landscapes (2016), and is the author of Prison Land: Mapping Carceral Power Across Neoliberal America.
In this talk, Story will explore the relationship between research and creative practice, arguing for a nonfiction cinema that incites the radical imagination. With reference to select scenes from her own documentary films as well as other visual material, Story will discuss geography as a cinematic method, the dynamic between rigorous research and aesthetic form, and the political stakes of trusting one’s audience.
A reception will follow. Childcare will be available in Johnson Chapel.